“Whisky is liquid sunshine.” – George Bernard Shaw
Whisky is usually considered a guys drink, especially on the rocks. It’s the choice of Don Draper, Johnny Carson and Mark Twain and is said to “put hair on your chest.” Luckily, that was only a figure of speech, because I dipped my toes into the world of whisky this fall thanks to a tasting of Macallan Rare Cask. While I don’t think I came out more of a man, I certainly gained a greater appreciation for the Scottish delicacy, and learned ways to serve it that will have all your holiday guests impressed by your whisky knowledge.
Though I had worked with whisky brands in the past, my tasting game has gotten a little rusty, so I jumped at the chance when Macallan Whisky (famous for being James Bond’s drink in the recent Skyfall movie) offered me the chance to taste their signature Rare Cask whisky. Now this is a real man’s drink, crafted only from handpicked, Spanish oak sherry seasoned casks, making it amongst the most precious and scarce in single malt whisky.
I ventured over to the The Berkshire Room for a real drinking education, Scottish style. First, here are some basic notes on whisky drinking:
- The first thing is the spelling! Real whisky drinkers know that whisky from Scotland, like Macallan, is spelled “whisky.” This also applies to whiskies made in Canada and Japan. But the liquor from other countries, including America and Ireland, has the added “e” for “whiskey.”
- To go along with the spelling, the term “whisk(e)y” can apply to many liquors including bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Scotch, Irish, and Canadian style whiskies (but don’t tell a Scottish person that!)
- Another word to be sure to know is “cask” (see above photo). This is a large barrel-like container made of wood, metal, or plastic, used for storing alcoholic drinks. And the type of cask is very important to the taste, quality etc. of liquor.
Once I knew the basics, the tasting could really begin! Though they also offered delicious whisky cocktails, I made sure to try the Rare Cask all on its own (or “neat” as bartenders say) to really appreciate the complexities of its taste. It has a red-tinted coloring, as opposed to the more gold you might see on other whiskies, and has a wide range of smells when you first put your nose to the drink. The oaky, clove smells hit first, which are typical scents for a whisky, but the finish was almost sweet, with hints of apple and even a dark chocolate.
You are supposed to sip whisky slowly, and let the liquid cover your tongue, even to the back of your throat, to fully immerse yourself in the flavor. This is especially key with complex varieties like Rare Cask, which starts off with a spicy taste but finishes off with that same chocolate taste mentioned before. It reminded me of a fall fireside, but only in the most upscale, “glamping” use of the term.
One thing to note about this, or any whisky, is that it should be sipped not chugged or gulped. It’s a distinct taste that has to grow on you, but will definitely warm your heart and stomach this fall and into the holidays. It’s for a more sophisticated drinker, but is perfect for a long night sitting fireside or a lingering dessert. Many people also think that whisky can only be drank neat or on the rocks (with ice) but it is also the base of many great cocktails! Set up a whisky bar at your holiday party and let guests put their own twists on classics.
But if you want to put a twist on the whisky classic, the other delicious whisky cocktails you can make easily and still impress your holiday guests are: